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Is auto focus or manual focus better for macro photography?

  
 
mjeffv2
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Is auto focus or manual focus better for macro photography?


I'm looking to do some macro photography on my Sony a7rV, mostly focusing on plants, bugs and anything with a cool texture. I really want to take advantage of the resolution sensor for this style so I want to make sure I get the right gear.

Auto focus: I know this will be a lot easier to use plus I can utilize focus stacking. I think the bug tracking might be easier as well. Seems like the major downside is it's only 1:1 magnification and more expensive.

Manual focus: the 2:1 magnification would be super cool. It's also a lot cheaper (Laowa I think is like 50% cheaper used on MPB) so it's less to try. But I feel like it's harder to take pics on the go real quick without bringing my tripod for easier focusing. Also I don't believe I can use focus stacking unless there's some crazy magic I'm unaware of.

Thanks for any insight you guys might have!



May 28, 2024 at 09:47 PM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Is auto focus or manual focus better for macro photography?


No problem focus stacking manual focus macro although it's easier when you've got a finer focusing helicoid thread.


May 29, 2024 at 01:25 AM
Dalantech
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Is auto focus or manual focus better for macro photography?


At 1x and higher magnification I wouldn't rely on a camera to chose the focus point. I can't speak for focus stacked shots because I shoot single frames. For a lens be sure that it does not have a manual aperture, because the view finder will be dark if you have to stop the lens down (less of a problem if your camera has an LCD that you can use for focusing).

I took these shots at 2x, and they are all single, uncropped, frames:

Lady Beetle on a Buttercup by John Kimbler, on Flickr

Sweat Bee on a Dandelion IV by John Kimbler, on Flickr

Yellow Legged Mining Bee II by John Kimbler, on Flickr

Granted, I've spent a lot of time learning how to control where the area of acceptable focus is going to fall in the frame. The advantage is that I do not have to shoot completely lethargic, or dead, subjects. The only thing that stops me from shooting is the rain. Shots like this next one are actually easier when it's windy:

Sweat Bee in a Sour Grass Flower II by John Kimbler, on Flickr

First choose what you want to photograph, and then figure out how you want to photograph it. Jumping straight into focus stacking might be a mistake.



May 29, 2024 at 03:46 PM
StoneCrop
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Is auto focus or manual focus better for macro photography?


I think the OP is referring to in camera focus stacking feature of the A7Rv, which would only work with the AF lens. Either way youíll have to still stack them in post but this feature provides one way to take a bunch of distant shots that have the focus moved a small distance each time. I donít have that model so Iím not totally sure how well it works. TheCamRanger offers similar functionality and I believe some other brands cameras do that now too. One problem is that as you change the focus youíre also slightly changing the magnification, vs keeping the focus the same and moving the whole camera and lens as a unit towards to subject. You can get macro rails like the NiSi for moving the whole unit and doing manual focus stacking, or thereís am even expensive motorized macro rails that do that work for you. or do as Iíve sometimes done and set to my fastest burst shooting while slowly moving towards a subject, and stacked the results with some success (using a manual Laowa 85 5.6 on Sony A74 at 2:1 magnification). All the other techniques besides that one require you to use a tripod or otherwise keep the camera stationary.

The Sony 90 does have reasonably good MF implementation for an AF lens though, as well as good focus limiters on the AF. No complaints with it or the Laowa 85 (I used to have the Laowa 100 but sold it after I got the Voigtlander 110, which I sold after I got the Sony), I like the small size of the 85 so I keep it around for 2:1 magnification and fully manual experience, and it was cheap to acquire, so I donít mind a little redundancy. One nice way to use the Sony is to let it use AF to find the subject, and then engage the MF to figure out where on the subject I want the focus



May 31, 2024 at 02:49 AM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Is auto focus or manual focus better for macro photography?


I've been using Helicon Focus since it came out in 2003 or shortly thereafter and the changes in image size due to focus breathing are not an issue, and in fact are far easier to deal with than the changes in viewpoint and perspective you get from moving the entire rig backwards and forward to achieve your focus slices. The biggest issue, and you'll have to test for yourself if you're going to shoot automated in camera slices is if the autofocus system in your lens or lenses has fine enough increments to give you sufficient overlap at your preferred aperture - you know - taking into account that at 2X magnification, you'll lose three stops of aperture so an indicated f/11 is now a detail crushing diffraction aperture of f/32. Lifesized 1:1 take a two stop toll and 3X a four stop hit, so in order to use the sharpest apertures you have to shoot at wider indicated apertures which have less inherent depth of field and need smaller focusing increments to achieve the needed overlap in focus to successfully stack.

Now, I know that was a mouthful, but it's really important to fully understand or you'll be wasting a lot of time. Actually I only have a single autofocus macro lens and pretty much don't use it anymore because I have several much better manual focus macros. When I shoot focus stacked images in the studio, it's always tethered to a laptop where I can check each image as it comes in to make sure that it's actually sharp and that it's got enough focus overlap to successfully stack. If I'm shooting in the field for focus stacking I just have to rely on having done this hundreds of times to sort of just know I'm getting it right, and most of the time I do - most of the time.

Whatever means you want to employ for your macro shots, you'll need to test to see what techniques work well for your own expectations. I actually started doing very simple focus stacking around 2000 or so shooting hammered stainless steel bowls in the studio on film and manually resizing two or three layers and blending them with layer masks to achieve full focus. Had no idea then that there would be software to do this all for you one day.



May 31, 2024 at 09:40 AM
 


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James Markus
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Is auto focus or manual focus better for macro photography?


Peter,
How do you employ Helicon Focus & Helicon Remote with manual focus lenses? Helicon's video looks great for automating the needed sequence of images to stack using AF, but I wonder if the number of focus points (and position) on each camera would determine how close those increments would be to each other. I have used Lr/Ps since about CS4 or CS5 for stacking, and usually it does a good job. Is Helicon better than today's Lr/Ps v25.x- In your opinion?
Jim

Peter Figen wrote:
I've been using Helicon Focus since it came out in 2003 or shortly thereafter and the changes in image size due to focus breathing are not an issue, and in fact are far easier to deal with than the changes in viewpoint and perspective you get from moving the entire rig backwards and forward to achieve your focus slices. The biggest issue, and you'll have to test for yourself if you're going to shoot automated in camera slices is if the autofocus system in your lens or lenses has fine enough increments to give you sufficient overlap at your
...Show more




May 31, 2024 at 02:21 PM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Is auto focus or manual focus better for macro photography?


James Markus wrote:
Peter,
How do you employ Helicon Focus & Helicon Remote with manual focus lenses? Helicon's video looks great for automating the needed sequence of images to stack using AF, but I wonder if the number of focus points (and position) on each camera would determine how close those increments would be to each other. I have used Lr/Ps since about CS4 or CS5 for stacking, and usually it does a good job. Is Helicon better than today's Lr/Ps v25.x- In your opinion?
Jim



You don't. You just start as your closest point of focus and go as far back as you want, process out the tiffs and then send them to Helicon or Zerene and sometimes both to see which software works best with a given image.




May 31, 2024 at 02:26 PM
James Markus
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Is auto focus or manual focus better for macro photography?


Ok. That's what I already do (except I go to Lr/Ps with the adjusted raw stack) - thanks

Peter Figen wrote:
You don't. You just start as your closest point of focus and go as far back as you want, process out the tiffs and then send them to Helicon or Zerene and sometimes both to see which software works best with a given image.






May 31, 2024 at 02:55 PM
Danpbphoto
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Is auto focus or manual focus better for macro photography?


I always use M in Macro....But I often use AF then fine tune in M to be sure.
Dan



Jun 01, 2024 at 10:02 AM
e6filmuser
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Is auto focus or manual focus better for macro photography?


I shoot macro daily and have done so for decades.

I own 2 AF lenses: a 50mm and a 100-400mm. I rarely use either on AF. All my other lenses, macro or not, are MF.

I find focus peaking very useful to essential for all of them. I have a button allocated to it.

Harold



Jun 11, 2024 at 01:49 AM







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